D&D (2024) Maybe this is a bit late, but let's talk about Rogue's Niche, and What Rogue Should Be.

This post might be veeeery long. Though the playtest has been over, but I still want to discuss this topic again when I finally get a full reveiw of the UAs

This post would not be a post about "How would I design it", but more like "What caused people arguing about Rogues, and what ways have been most suggested by players during the Playtests?"

Quick Summary

Rogue’s been suffering from lack of a clear niche. Some regards it a Martial, but some regards it a Supportive Class, while some thinks Rogue's combat power can’t make it a real Martial, while others find Rogue's utilities also can’t make it a competent supportive class, even not better than other Martials after UA7 and UA8 (Ranger, Monk, Fighter, Paladin, Barbarian, even Warlock etc.).

Half of the players thinks Rogue's been competent from 5E, since Rogue has both niche. But half of the players think Rogue has been weak for not doing great on both sides, and this has been quite true after UA7 and UA8.

I believe there were many people who mentioned those things in the Survey of UA2 Rogue. Things about how Rogue’s core features can’t keep up with the new edition when other classes got buffed, and how they can’t do much during a combat. This was quite fixed after the UA6, while Rogue has got their Cunning Strike. But the niche problem came back after UA7 and UA8, and it's been even worse.

First of all, this post is not saying Rogue must be the top at all things, but it has to have a clear niche, and few core features that are unique enough and better than other classes to make players won’t ask themselves “Why should I play this class when there’re other classes that could do a better job with the same flavor?”. I'll be discussing why Rogue's been suffering from Niche Problem after UA7 and UA8 in the following.


Utility-wise

Rogue’s utility mainly comes from their skills, but there are too many classes are good at skill checks now, thus making Rogue losing their niche as a supportive class.

In UA7, Barbarian has been able to use Str for five useful skills (Acrobatics, Intimidation, Perception, Stealth, and Survival) while raging. It not only lasts for 10-minutes now, but also provides advantage on those skills since you’re using Str on those checks.

In UA8, Fighter can even outshine Rogue’s skills before they reach Level 7 with Tactical Mind.

In my former playtest with my friends, the new Fighter with Tactical Mind, without any intentionally leaning into skills, had outpaced my Thief Rogue in skill checks before Level 7, which was a surprising result for me.

Before Level 7, Rogue only has more extra +2/+3. In many scenarios, more +2/+3 in certain skills just couldn’t compete a +D10 to any random check that you've failed. There aren't that many failed skill checks between short-rests at all, let alone it cost nothing if that D10 isn't making you pass.

What really makes me feel like my Fighter friend was outshining me is that rolling an additional D10 really makes players feel like they’re doing something, and they were so good at passing that check.

It provides players a chance to flavor the scene as something like “Expert’s Instinct” moment, rather than “oh, it’s a 5, I passed/failed”.It brings more fun, feels more active, and more exciting, but saying “you can add your proficiency in that check”, just tastes less “Expert” than a roll an additional D10 at a critical moment.


Especially it feels bad when you don’t get that extra +2 on the skill you ought to be good at but you didn’t Expertise for you don’t have that many. The only Rogue I can think of to compete this is the Soulknife Rogue. For the same reason, Soulknife Rogue has also been one of the most favored subclass among players. Above all, all these Features like Tactical Mind and the new Rage could be recovered by short-rest now.

We also have more Full-Casters and Half-Casters that had or getting Expertise and skill enhancements, while they already possess great utilities with spells. Like Bards and Rangers who possess Extra-Attacks, Pass Without Trace, Expertise, Skill-Enhancements, Fighting Styles, Spells, Rituals at the same time.

These changes are making Rogue less special in skills and making them feels mundane, since a skill check only has two results, “you succeeded” or “you failed”. There’s no difference between you exceed the DC by 3 or you exceed the DC by 10 under the current skill system.

Combat-wise

Rogue’s been facing serious problems for they lack of extra-attack and other Martials getting more features that resemble Rogue’s.

The UA8 Monk has been able to Dash, Disengage as a Bonus Action without costs, just like the Cunning Action. Deflect Attack has also been a purely better version of Uncanny Dodge, both mathematically and mechanically.

According to the calculation made by many players, Uncanny Dodge is only better than Deflect Attacks when a Rogue takes 30+ damage from one hit at level 5. For most monsters that players would be facing at level 5, that's nearly impossible to meet one.

Furthermore, Barbarian is also getting their own Strikes. Fighter has also been able to Disengage and move more as a Bonus Action, though with costs.

Above that, Rogue also has less available Weapon Masteries to choose since they're bounded to Finese Weapons, while half of the effects made by Cunning Strike could be replicated by Masteries at no costs.

The Importance of Extra-Attack

Most importantly, most Martial-related spells, magic items, and class features still only benefits multi-attacks.

Like the new Adventure Gear version of Net, and the Breath Weapon of the Dragonborn, they can replace one of the attacks from one Attack Action, but Rogue only has one attack from an Attack Action, thus making Rogue the worst Net user except for Thief, which seems odd to me.

Multi-Attacks also make Weapen Mastery Effects more reliable and versatile than Cunning Strike without costs, and some them may even stack.

The worst thing about this has been every class that isn’t a full-caster can attack twice, except for Rogue, which makes Rogue irrelevant to the half of the game, while the other half of the game are about spells, which Rogue also doesn’t have those. It just leaves no room for Rogue to optimize like other classes.

While in this case, Sneak Attack still scales too little compared to other classes since Level 5. Full-casters are getting their 3rd level spells at 5, and other classes that aren’t full-casters are doubling their DPR with extra-attack.

But Rogue only gets one D6, and controls that costs damage even more. These controls from Cunning Strike are good but not enough for them to be a competent supportive class. There were statistics made by other players about how much damage could 5e2024 Martials do, and Rogue’s been the lowest.

Even some full-casters like Bard and Wizard that have the access to the multi-attacks can even deal more damage and be a better Martial than a Rogue, despite of being a full-caster with crazy utilities.

Rogue's Niche

There has been two voices in the community about what a Rogue is. One is Rogue’s been a Martial, for obvious reason that they can’t cast and fight like a Martial.

One is Rogue’s been a supportive class for they have good skills back in 5e and they don’t have extra-attacks.

To me, Rogue still feels like a Martial both in theme and in playstyle. It is a non-caster without magical spells after all. The subclasses like the Assassin, Scout, Swashbuckler are definitely supposed to be Martials.



Suggestions

There has been a lot of suggestions about how to make Rogue find its niche.

If we’re making it a real supportive-class, most popular suggestion is making Rogue able to do more things with skills, and let them be able to fulfil extra tasks with skill checks while others can't. Make their check-results better and different from other classes.

Though, the easiest way of doing this might have been making Rogue the “physical Wizard”. Things like you can make effects that works similar to some spells by skill checks.

If we’re making it a real Martial, there’re many ways to do this:

1. Give them extra-attack.

This is the simplest way of making Rogue a Martial. Their DPR would also be acceptable since they don’t have Fighting Styles, Spells, and the access to Heavy Weapons and many Martial Weapons, thus making them unable to pick Feats like Polearm Master, Crossbow Expert, Great Weapon Master that most Martials would pick.

Luckily, Sneak Attack is not easy to trigger and scales really slow. Adding extra-attack only allows Rogue to catch up with others. But the most controversial part of this solution is that many players believe the extra-attack would eliminates the flavor of Rogue, which I totally understand. Though, I’m not against this solution.

2. Make Sneak Attack Scales every level.

This has been the simplest and the most accepted solution. All we need to do is making Sneak Attack once “per round” instead of once “per turn”, as most Rogue players have suggested and wanted.

Players are happy to see Sneak Attack becomes once per round when the damage goes up, like “you can only Sneak Attack once before the start of your next turn”.
They just need their Opportunity Sneak Attack and Ready Sneak Attack to be still available when players didn’t Sneak Attack in their own turn.

3. Sneak Attack remains the same, but make Uncanny Dodge into Uncanny Riposte.

There are many players that suggested since out-of-turn Sneak Attack has been a viable playstyle since 5e2014, then why not we just make it more accessible to all players, instead of only the experienced players and specific classes.

We just need to make Uncanny Dodge able to “attack back (with a melee attack) when you get hit by an attack”. Since the requirements of a Sneak Attack are very easy to break, like attacks from the outside of their range, or face to face when the Rogue is holding a Ranged Weapon, or prone, or many things, the overall DPR would be reasonably fine. Especially it only triggers when Rogue loses its HP. It’s a kind of resource costing either.

4. Add more Sneak Attack Dices by one at certain levels.

Those levels would be like 5, 9, 11, and 17. Though I believe this is far from enough, and not fixing any problems. An extra 3.5 damage is not making Rogue catches up with what extra-attack and 3rd level spells and more spell slots could bring.

My Opinion

I prefer Rogue to be a Martial, cuz it’s been too hard to make Rogue a real competent supportive class without giving them spells or making big changes to the class and the skill system.

So far, I haven’t seen much feasible suggestions in making Rogue a supportive class with simple solutions from the community.

It’s much easier to make it a Martial. But as a Martial, their features just don't justify for its DPR being the lowest currently.

But anyway, I believe firmly that the team would take good care of Rogue. I’m really looking forward to see a better Rogue with a clearer niche.
 

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Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
The niche of being a "skill monkey" robs the other marshal classes of being good outside of combat. As we have seen when the other editions of D&D have tried to enforce niche protection for the Rogue/Thief class. I would go as far as to say that the existence of the thief/rogue in other editions severely hamstrung the play of other characters.

To the point, Niche Protection is outmoded design; You should be asking for parity instead. Being good enough to do things in every pillar of play, while doing them differently, is plenty enough to establish a unique and interesting playstyle. Which is the real thing needed to justify a classes existence, and make them fun to play.
 

DrJawaPhD

Adventurer
I'm not familiar with the proposed changes to Rogues in the various UA's, but based on the current released state, Rogues need more damage.

Picking locks and disarming traps is a useless niche nowadays, with DMs mostly moving away from these being core gameplay. Even the plate wearing Paladin can be stealthy when Pass Without Trace exists, and scouting is much safer/easier with familiars. Excelling at pickpocketing is fun, but generally not a particularly useful role to the rest of the party. There just isn't much utility offered by Rogues to justify them being so weak on damage.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
The 5e ogue shedding the restrictions on sneak attack & replacing them with what is effectively little more than "be part of a group" simultaneously robs them of their niche and makes restoring any particular niche a problem. There just isn't enough power budget to add more. Rogue is not the only class that has this problem but it's almost certainly leading the pack in that regard.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Hot take:

The Rogue is not a Martial. It is a skills class.​


The Rogue is not a class of war and battle. It is nonmagical at base but not a warrior.

The struggle is people trying to make a thief or conman into a warrior.

The Rogue should be a skills class and there should be another skills class in the game. The road would be the physical skill class and there would be a Noble or Savant skill class for mental skills.
 

ezo

Where is that Singe?
I really don't get this. The rogue is a martial, and great at some skills, their DPR is fine and not lacking really compared to other martials. Not every one wants to play a caster, using familiars to scout, etc., nor a combat powerhouse. The rogue serves as a very good balance all-around IME.

Rogue is my favorite 5E class, overall, for the very reason you can do a lot with the class, easily deal enough damage to participate effectively in combat, have mobility, and specialize in certain non-comat pillars via expertise. It adapts well to either urban or wilderness, with a nice variety of subclasses, and generally is a fun class to play.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
I really don't get this. The rogue is a martial, and great at some skills, their DPR is fine and not lacking really compared to other martials. Not every one wants to play a caster, using familiars to scout, etc., nor a combat powerhouse. The rogue serves as a very good balance all-around IME.

Rogue is my favorite 5E class, overall, for the very reason you can do a lot with the class, easily deal enough damage to participate effectively in combat, have mobility, and specialize in certain non-comat pillars via expertise. It adapts well to either urban or wilderness, with a nice variety of subclasses, and generally is a fun class to play.
That's the oversight, it's not just"some skills". Wizards for example have "some skills" they are good or even great at, except nearly all of them are low value niche ones with limited use or are an array of skills so overly condensed into a single choice that more classes than not can claim it to be in their wheelhouse both in terms of fluff and function during play.

Rogue doesn't just have "some skills"... It excels in nearly all of the game's S++ tier skills and has a primary attribute that feeds into them and it embodies the fluff of those skills as the literal poster child for them.
 

Horwath

Legend
rogue class is over glorified feat(s)

expertise? prodigy+skill expert,
more skills that every other class? Skilled
scout subclass? prodigy+skill expert

arcane trickster? magic initiate+fey touched+shadow touched+some to be feat for giving 3rd and 4th level spells, gated by character level.

sneak attack; PF1 has a feat for +1d6 sneak attack, so 5E full feat can be +3d6 sneak attack or +1 ASI +1d6 sneak attack + expertise

skill monkey should really be decoupled form dedicated class. it's a subclass at best or just your selection of feats that should be available to all characters.
 

Rogue is my favorite 5E class, overall, for the very reason you can do a lot with the class, easily deal enough damage to participate effectively in combat, have mobility, and specialize in certain non-comat pillars via expertise. It adapts well to either urban or wilderness, with a nice variety of subclasses, and generally is a fun class to play.
That might be correct in 5e. But what the 5e2024 Rogue has been facing that too many classes are having similar features, good mobility, good skills, better damage, which make Rogue lacks a core feature that really make them "special" enough.

It's more like "Why would I play Rogue instead of other Martials that could do similar things, maybe even better" for many players. Though I know there's still gonna be hell lot of players, including myself, are going to continue to play and love this class without grumbling. But that doesn't mean Rogue should just stay as what it is when we see there's a obvious weakpoint of "not being better at anything".

When a class can't contriube anything special and unique enough, many players are gonna find it frustrating and even boring to play, due to the designing of the class. Though, let me put this first: Of coure it still could be fun as hell if you're having a great table and story, but we're gonna discuss it the class designing itself, without considering the pure Role-Playing part, since players can't always have the suitable game.

Back to the topic, Fighter always feel unique and strong enough for players even though they share the same Fighting Styles, Extra Attacks, and now Weapon Masteries with other classes, just because the famous and powerful feature Action Surge stands there tall and tell the players "Hey! Nobody can fight like me".

But Rogue...Well, Rogue, after UA7 and UA8, Rogue's combat toolkit, like Cunning Action and Uncanny Dodge have been almost fully replicated by Monk, while they even have a better version of Uncanny Dogde--Deflect Attacks.

Evasion, also shared by Monk, and the Hunter Ranger.

Sneak Attack, it's cool, and it should be Rogue's one and only feature that shines so bright, but sadly it's been so much worse than the normal Extra Attacks. It's harder to land, benefit less from Magic Weapons, feels so frustrated when you miss. Even when you didn't miss, it's still dealing sorry damage than characters with Extra Attacks. Cunning Strike is helping, but it costs even more damage above that, while half of the effects could be simply replicated by Weapon Masteries that only Rogue can't perform, while other Martials could do it twice.

So finally, we're back to Skills. Skills were the only reason for Rogue to "contribute so less in a combat* during 5e. But now it should definitely not be the reason. They are only a bit better than other Martials at skills before 7, while they might be even worse with critical checks. Especially when Expertise was shared by Ranger and Bard orginally, and now many Full Casters are also having a taste of that.

Rogue's Skills are definitely not enough to be that one and only feature that makes players feel "hey I can't play the game like in a Rogue way if I choose another class". In fact, Rogue might be the simplest Class to be replicated with the same flavor and similar features now. More importantly, the Skill System itself just can't afford that uniqueness.

Actually, Rangers have been facing similar problems either. They both lack of a defining feature that makes players feel powerful and unique enough. But Rangers still have a good toolkit, power-wise, like Expertise, Spells, Rituals, Martial Weapons, Shield Prof, Fighting Styles etc. But Rogues don't have any of those powerful options. Rogue needs some kind of boost to create a defining feature for the class.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
That might be correct in 5e. But what the 5e2024 Rogue has been facing that too many classes are having similar features, good mobility, good skills, better damage, which make Rogue lacks a core feature that really make them "special" enough.

It's more like "Why would I play Rogue instead of other Martials that could do similar things, maybe even better" for many players. Though I know there's still gonna be hell lot of players, including myself, are going to continue to play and love this class without grumbling. But that doesn't mean Rogue should just stay as what it is when we see there's a obvious weakpoint of "not being better at anything".

When a class can't contriube anything special and unique enough, many players are gonna find it frustrating and even boring to play, due to the designing of the class. Though, let me put this first: Of coure it still could be fun as hell if you're having a great table and story, but we're gonna discuss it the class designing itself, without considering the pure Role-Playing part, since players can't always have the suitable game.

Back to the topic, Fighter always feel unique and strong enough for players even though they share the same Fighting Styles, Extra Attacks, and now Weapon Masteries with other classes, just because the famous and powerful feature Action Surge stands there tall and tell the players "Hey! Nobody can fight like me".

But Rogue...Well, Rogue, after UA7 and UA8, Rogue's combat toolkit, like Cunning Action and Uncanny Dodge have been almost fully replicated by Monk, while they even have a better version of Uncanny Dogde--Deflect Attacks.

Evasion, also shared by Monk, and the Hunter Ranger.

Sneak Attack, it's cool, and it should be Rogue's one and only feature that shines so bright, but sadly it's been so much worse than the normal Extra Attacks. It's harder to land, benefit less from Magic Weapons, feels so frustrated when you miss. Even when you didn't miss, it's still dealing sorry damage than characters with Extra Attacks. Cunning Strike is helping, but it costs even more damage above that, while half of the effects could be simply replicated by Weapon Masteries that only Rogue can't perform, while other Martials could do it twice.

So finally, we're back to Skills. Skills were the only reason for Rogue to "contribute so less in a combat* during 5e. But now it should definitely not be the reason. They are only a bit better than other Martials at skills before 7, while they might be even worse with critical checks. Especially when Expertise was shared by Ranger and Bard orginally, and now many Full Casters are also having a taste of that.

Rogue's Skills are definitely not enough to be that one and only feature that makes players feel "hey I can't play the game like in a Rogue way if I choose another class". In fact, Rogue might be the simplest Class to be replicated with the same flavor and similar features now. More importantly, the Skill System itself just can't afford that uniqueness.

Actually, Rangers have been facing similar problems either. They both lack of a defining feature that makes players feel powerful and unique enough. But Rangers still have a good toolkit, power-wise, like Expertise, Spells, Rituals, Martial Weapons, Shield Prof, Fighting Styles etc. But Rogues don't have any of those powerful options. Rogue needs some kind of boost to create a defining feature for the class.
Because the 5e Rogue is not a Martial.

The 4e Rogue is a Martial warrior.
The 5e Rogue is a skill monkey.
 

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